Romeo asked, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.”
The same can be said of ice cream flavors. If we didn’t call Cookies & Cream “Cookies & Cream,” would it still taste like Cookies & Cream? Ice cream is an arena where names seem to matter. We love a Jeni’s flavor called “Brambleberry Crisp” but would we love it as much if she had called it “Soggy Blackberry Mixture with Oats?” I don’t think so. Which is why, for this post, about ice cream made with the ripest, end-of-summer peaches, I’m sticking to the simple and direct: this is a post about Peach Ice Cream, plain and simple.
Here’s some free life advice: if you ever see two vanilla beans on sale for $8, buy them.
That’s literally what happened to me last week at Cookbook in Echo Park. They’re selling vanilla beans in little packets of two for eight bucks. Here’s the thing: if you’ve never worked with a vanilla bean before, you should treat yourself, at least once, to the experience… especially if you like vanilla. A fresh vanilla bean is intensely fragrant in the most natural way — the total opposite of a vanilla-scented candle — and scraping the little black seeds out with a sharp knife is the closest many of us will ever get to buying caviar.
There’s a certain math when it comes to frozen desserts. The math goes something like this: ice cream > sorbet. The logic for this has everything to do with decadence: ice cream has fat, sorbet traditionally doesn’t. You can blend a watermelon, add a little sugar syrup, and freeze that in an ice cream maker and that’s “sorbet.” It’s basically frozen, blended fruit. Ice cream involves warming cream, infusing egg yolks, adding lots of chopped naughty bits — chocolate, candied walnuts, cake crumbles — and churning that into something that feels like a real treat. Again, at the risk of repeating myself: ice cream > sorbet.
Imagine my shock and surprise, then, to make Melissa Clark’s Darkest Chocolate Sorbet from her new book, Dinner in French, only to discover that this frozen chocolate concoction of the sorbet variety was far to superior to any frozen chocolate dessert I’ve ever had. I’ll give you a moment to take that in.
I’m going through a real sorbet / ice cream-making phase right now. If you follow me on Instagram (and how can you not?!), you saw me make a vanilla bean ice cream a few weeks ago, and a Concord grape sorbet more recently. Not only was it fun to dig out my old ice cream maker (it’s nothing fancy; just a crappy old Cuisinart, with a canister I keep in the freezer), but it’s been EXTRA fun to have homemade frozen treats waiting for me every night after dinner. I have a real sweet tooth, but eating a whole dessert every night is a lot, so I just have a spoonful or two of homemade ice cream or sorbet, and I’m good.
Yesterday, I was at the farmer’s market and I decided to brave the line at the only organic stand (they’re so popular, they scared away all the others). As I gathered up heirloom tomatoes and zucchini, I spied really gorgeous strawberries. Even though strawberries are more of a spring thing (aren’t they?), these specimens were pretty undeniable.
And now I’m about to put myself in my own place by refuting number ten on that list: sorbet. Here’s what I wrote then: “This is a dinner party, not a cleanse. If you’re feeling lazy, that’s fine, but at the very least, have the decency to serve us ice cream. But sorbet? SORBET? That’s it…I’m leaving.” Wow, I don’t even recognize the person who wrote that… especially now that I’ve made the sorbet that I’m about to tell you about. But first, the context.
Most people who buy malt powder do so to make malteds, not homemade everything bagels. But days after making those bagels, I found myself with a perfectly good carton of malt powder and, having made a chickpea stew for dinner, I figured: “Hey, we deserve some chocolate malteds.” Here’s the thing about chocolate malteds: you don’t make them with chocolate ice cream. You make them with vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup.
What does it profit a man to make profiteroles? Turns out: it profits a man a great deal. A woman too.
Profiteroles are happy little puffs that you slice in half, fill with ice cream and then drizzle with chocolate sauce. Sort of like little ice cream sandwiches, except they’re not sandwiches; they’re more like buns filled with ice cream. And making those buns (or puffs, really) is such a cinch, I could probably make a batch in the time it takes to write this post. And once you have them, all you need is ice cream and chocolate sauce and you’re ready to serve up an elegant dessert.
Somewhere along the way, I lost interest in making ice cream. I didn’t lose interest in ice cream, just making it. So if I were to have a dinner party, I might make brownies and hot fudge sauce for brownie sundaes (as I did for an upcoming episode of The Clean Plate Club), but I’d buy the ice cream at the store and that was that. I was happy. I’d been there and done that with ice cream. But then a cookbook showed up from one of my favorite restaurants in all of New York (maybe in all the land), Franny’s, and there at the back was a recipe for one of the best ice cream/gelato concoctions I’ve ever tasted: their toasted almond gelato.